Hmmmm 5 /19
Had a restaurant once & once is too much. 3 scarred years of the last decade of the last century.
Went down like the Hindenburg. Worst 3 years of my life. De-civilized me.
It was at the far west end of 23 St. If you're not from NYC, call it “On the Waterfront land.”
It had been a notorious gangland/shipping neighborhood. In my tenure it was transitional. Now it is
quite touristed and construction goes great guns.
Upon opening (sometimes referred to as “grand”), funky shit started up without delay.
In these Ma & Pa struggles, one can expect a ponderous mambo line of bizarre and
sometimes malevolent or infrequently wonderful employees.
One night when closing down, the small crew -which included a wacky waitress covered in
tattoos- were nearly out the door. In those regular rituals, it was noted by those present that the joint
took on a chill once the lights were off. Tattoo girl looked back into a corner of the dining room and
remarked she saw 2 ghosts, kinda side by side. She also asked, “Who's the midget?” We skedaddled.
On commencing renovations prior to opening, I found a folding lawn chaise in the basement.
I threw it out. Later I found out the previous owner, a hard working Japanese fella would take his
naps down there – by the ConEd meters, usually in the company of his small dog. Apparently, when
the man died in his sleep, attached by a leash the dog could do nothing else but die with him. They
were found after a long weekend or something like that. Who's the midget? Hmmmm.
Another waitress, nice woman – Columbia student, said often, she thought someone was
watching her through windows. She felt the watcher was a woman. One night she got really bent
outta shape saying she was being watched in the bathroom. She was kinda gone after that, or soon
after that. Nice woman.
The joint was and is in a small old building. The restaurant was 2 stores or spaces connected by
nice cutouts in a baring wall. The basement was a bit different though still 2 sides. One side had a
concrete floor, the other not. In the far corner of the unfinished side was the remnant of a coal chute.
On the dirt floor was the outline of the filled in pit where the coal was stored. Shit looked like a
grave and frankly, scared the bejeezus out of those of us who came to know it.
B b b b bad juju. Big time .
The ghosty shit persisted at a regular tempo so I sought out the guidance of a very dear
friend o' mine; Geoff. Geoff, now gone, was blind. Very interesting cat. Had a social circle of freaks
connected to the 'infinite' and such things, as was Geoff. I enlightened him to the situation.
He came by one Saturday night – when we were busy (that happened) – and sat by the pit (we
called it “the pit”) all night. The pit, the grave, whatever. He came up when the evening was
concluded and gave me the skinny.
He said we had 3 ghosts. Hmmmm? He could not explain as much as he could explain.
First ghost was a woman who he said was killed during 'rough sex'. The building and
neighborhood had a nefarious past As well as having been a rectory, it might have been a cathouse.
Both identities could corroborate that crime.
Second ghost was a man killed over something about gambling. Geoff could not be too clear about
that but I know, if you are on a hot streak at an underground card game, shit might happen. Dig?
Third ghost. Geoff was most intrigued by the third ghost. He said this guy – clearly – was hit over
the head in a robbery. He was quite convinced about it and didn't understand it either. Oh well.
Monday morning I was on the phone with 'Haunted NYC Bus and Walking Tours' Told them my
joint was spook central and they should bring their flocks for lunch. No such luck. Oh well.
A while later, not long before we were outta there, I was there late with the bartender on a cold and
business dead night. In comes an old guy and his grandson. This retired cop begins to yarn about the
place when he had it many years and a few incarnations back. Shipping in the area was still vibrant
and Irish cops could and did moonlight then. Told me all kinds of stuff about the place that I had
wondered about but only drew blanks.
Anyway, so he tells me; that on a cold late night just like this one, with a few good lads at the bar,
a stick-up guy comes in waving a pistol. Tells the cop/bartender to come out from behind the bar.
He complies though ducks under – as was his habit- the end of the bar instead of lifting that hinged
leaf at the end of an old bar. Fearing a weapon, the stick up guy clocked him as he came up
from under. Seeing his friend and bartender getting cold cocked, one of the guys at the bar jumps up
and went for the stick-up guy with his barstool but the robber spun around and shot him dead at
close range. Cop told me he was dead when he hit the floor. They chased him out the bar,
apprehended him and he was convicted bla bla bla.
Point is this; what was the last thing the kid saw before he died – his friend getting hit on the head
in a robbery. Geoff got it right. Hmmmm?
Some months after that evening we retreated, bankrupt and beat to a pulp. Shattered. After a few
years, yet again the place, the joint, was born again. New owners – old ghosts. I never went in for
fear the light bulbs would start popping or some such thing.
I used to leave beers poured on the bar after closing on Christmas and New Years. I apologized to
my predecessor for throwing out his chaise and mounted a picture of Fuji on one of the meters.
Outside looking in ain't so bad. I'd rather see than be one.